By Gary Dyck
Anyone else noticing how some of the major events of the past couple years also happened 100 years ago? In 1918 and 1919 there was a worldwide influenza that killed many. In March 1922, convoys of Mennonites began leaving Canada for what they hoped would be greater freedom in Mexico. Also, beginning in the 1920s all of Russia (including Ukraine) began to face great oppression from the rulers of that time. I notice this because, at the Mennonite Heritage Village (MHV) our ‘Leaving Canada: the Mennonite migration to Mexico’ exhibit for 2022 marks the 100-year anniversary of that event. And our upcoming 2023 ‘The Russländer’ exhibit about the Mennonites that fled oppression in Ukraine is also a 100-year anniversary exhibit. Is history repeating itself 100 years later?
In the MHV parking lot, in that liminal space between the main entrance to MHV and Highway 12 stands a twenty foot cenotaph that was built in 1985. It remembers the victims of war and terror from where the Mennonites lived in Ukraine a hundred years ago. The monument committee in 1985 told us that: “this monument was erected to remind us of the tragic history of a minority. At this time the catastrophic events have not yet been forgotten. There are still many survivors of that purgatory, but it is so easy to forget. Woe to us, if we forget their suffering, and if we ignore the lessons of history. We pray and hope that this monument will make us a little more thoughtful, a little more sober, and more responsible in our judgements and actions. And above all, we firmly believe that peace can only be found in forgiveness.” Almost 40 years later, we at MHV echo this belief.
This Sunday, March 7th, MHV will host a prayer vigil for the peace of Ukraine and Russia. During times of grief and tragedy we need to come together as a community, support one another, and pray for an end to the violence we see. Around a hundred years ago thousands of Mennonites were lost and 300 Mennonite villages were wiped off Russian maps. Let us not forget that we have been here before and pray that no more people will be forced to face such great trauma again. This prayer vigil is for both those that feel shaken by what is happening in Ukraine and for those that want to pray peace and goodness back into that land. More details below and on our website.
Upcoming Events: MHV’s galleries and Village Books & Gifts are open Tuesday to Saturday, 9am – 5pm. Our award-winning ‘Mennonites at War’ exhibit is open for another 4 weeks only. Make plans to see it before it’s gone!
Free Skating Saturdays, 9am – 5pm. Admission is a tin for the bin benefiting Helping Hands Food Bank. At the moment, there are still some snow blocks available for snow sculpturing and a large igloo to enjoy.
Prayer Vigil for the peace of Ukraine, Sunday, March 13 at 7pm. This outdoor vigil will take place at the ‘Mennonite monument dedicated to the victims of war and terror’ on the MHV parking lot near our front entrance. Dress warm and feel free to bring a candle to hold or a chair to sit on if needed. The vigil will be around 30 minutes.
Garden plots are once again being offered at MHV. There are only twenty plots available. See our website today for more details.